Lasering in on tumors: a new tool, which "sees" diseased cells, may greatly boost accurate brain surgery. More below from the article by Peter Reuell, Harvard Staff Writer: In the battle against brain cancer, doctors now have a new weapon: an imaging technology that will make brain surgery dramatically more accurate by allowing surgeons to distinguish between brain tissue and tumors at a microscopic level.
Called SRS microscopy — short for stimulated Raman scattering — a team of researchers that included Xiaoliang Sunney Xie, the Mallinckrodt Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, and Minbiao Ji, a postdoctoral fellow in chemistry and chemical biology, were able to “see” the tiniest areas of tumor cells in brain tissue, and to distinguish tumor from healthy tissue in the brains of living mice. Then they showed that the same was possible in tissue removed from a patient with glioblastoma multiforme, one of the most deadly brain tumors. The research is described in a Sept. 4 paper in Science Translational Medicine.
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“Biopsy has been the gold standard for detecting and removing these types of tumors,” said Xie, the co-lead author of the paper. “But this technique, we believe, is better because it’s live. Surgeons can now skip all the steps of taking a biopsy, freezing, and staining the tissue. This technique allows them to do it all in vivo.”
Developed by Xie and colleagues in 2008, SRS works by shining non-invasive lasers into tissue and detecting the weak signal that emerges. By analyzing the signal’s spectrum, researchers can build images of the cellular makeup of the tissue. By amplifying those signals, they transform a technique that once took hours or days into one that works in real time, and could offer a critical insight to surgeons in the operating room.
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Stimulated Raman scattering (SRS) microscopy enables label-free imaging with high-sensitivity. However, in vivo SRS imaging was not previously feasible as light could not be collected through thick tissues, and slow image collection caused motion blur. Now, scientists at Harvard University (Cambridge, MA) have boosted the signal by enhancing the light collection, and ramped the scanning speed by three orders of magnitude – fast enough to capture video-rate subcellular images of proteins, lipids and water within cells (Science 330 1368).
The researchers have already used SRS microscopy in mice to track a collagen-stimulating drug penetrating the skin and see red blood cells flow into capillaries. "We're already looking forward with great anticipation to applications of SRS microscopy in hospitals," said author X Sunney Xie. "It's now clear that stimulated Raman scattering will play an important role in the future of biological imaging and medical diagnostics."
Image courtesy of Minbiao Ji, Xie group/Harvard University
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